5 Ways the Airline Industry Has Given Up on Us

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It's no secret airline travel has gotten worse in recent years, even before the 9/11 gut check.

Normally, businesses facing that perception from customers would change their ways.

Recent developments suggest the airline industry is doing just that: by totally giving up on the flying public.

Five ways this is true follow after the jump . . .

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Early Wednesday morning, United Airlines and American Airlines planes arriving from Chicago and Miami, respectively, were unable to reach the Ronald Reagan National Airport control tower in Washington, D.C. Both landed on their own without the Reagan tower, talking instead to an air-traffic controller at a regional airport and announcing their actions to other aircraft in the area. The FAA is investigating whether Reagan Airport's lone controller on duty fell asleep.

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Consumers paid more than $9.2 billion in fees to U.S. airlines in 2010, and a good half were hidden from passengers, travel agents and cheap-ticket websites, the Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA) reported March 10. A study by the nonprofit CTA found passengers on average paid a total of $36.80 in fees for checked baggage and other services per every round-trip ticket--nearly $150 for a family of four. Pay more, get less.

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The industry blames more and rising hidden and unhidden fees on rising aviation fuel prices. They've spiked something like six times in the past year. To keep flying affordable in these budget-crunched times, the public has responded by checking in fewer bags, cramming more into their carry-ons. But we can't win this shell game because, this month, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) revealed it wants airport fees raised because more TSA manpower is being expended to check carry-ons. Guess who those fees will be passed on to?

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No mention of diminished quality sparks greater outrage than the disappearing snack cart. Continental Airlines in October joined the growing list of carriers that stopped passing out free snacks to those flying coach on domestic routes. Others, such as Southwest, have continued (and trumpeted) their free munchies. Continental's move was immediately damned. "No more pretzels? Really? Is that the secret to running a successful 21st-century airline?" one blogger asked. TravelMole's David Wilkening mades a bold prediction: "Coming next for airlines: bread and water." It is getting like prison up there, after all.

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Airline "saddle seats," which would allow more fare buyers to be crammed into cabins by having passengers essentially stand up during flights, were unveiled at the Aircraft Interiors Expo Americas conference in Long Beach last September. Gitty-up!


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